DAFF Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson stated the corruption was focused on abalone. (Photo: cer.org.za/Stock File/FIS)
Minister roots out governmental corruption
Friday, August 03, 2012, 15:30 (GMT + 9)
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) said it is determined to eradicate corruption within its ranks. As part of the plan after discovering that some officials were taking bribes from crime syndicates involved in abalone poaching, the police have tasked an internationally reputable auditing firm to run a forensic audit of the fisheries branch.
DAFF Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said the findings from the preliminary investigation which found evidence of corruption could implicate some officials in the department. Corruption was discovered insofar as the allocation of quotas, transfer of rights and preferential treatment given to certain businesses.
The minister was unable to disclose the name of the company, as she had not been cleared by police to do so. However, insiders said the investigation would be led by Ernst & Young.
According to Joemat-Pettersson, the investigations are being conducted into all types of corruption in the department, although the initial search indicated there was corruption centred on abalone.
"We are determined to root out corruption. We will not hesitate to act against any official who is implicated in any way in any corrupt practice," she stated.
Since preliminary investigations began, her office has had to respond to weekly allegations from officials claiming that she was going to fire them, Joemat-Pettersson stated.
"There's a perception created that I'm going on a witch-hunt against my officials. I don't think we will be intimidated by this type of witch-hunt," she said, Time Live reports.
“I am going to clean up the department. We will not be threatened… despite an orchestrated, vicious and baseless campaign to discredit me,” Joemat-Pettersson added, IOL News reports.
In addition, she mentioned that some allegations had been made about her as a person, and noted that if these were true, people ought to present evidence to substantiate them.
The minister said that the probe had reached such "a sensitive stage" that various people assisting the authorities were being placed under the witness protection programme after their lives were threatened. Joemat-Pettersson said DAFF is now set to add even more measures to secure the department's information and ensure staff safety.
Following increased surveillance by police and other officials last week, over 30,436 units of abalone were seized, leading to seven arrests in five different incidences of illegal poaching. There were two arrests made in Riviersonderend last week and the confiscation of 3,806 abalone.
The minister congratulated community members and DAFF officials who had helped expose poaching activities, and encouraged South African denizens to blow the whistle if they had other information around poaching.
Joemat-Pettersson said the department was currently calculating the cost to the economy of the confiscated abalone. Still, she expressed concern because the proceeds of confiscated abalone were awarded to Marine and Coastal Management, which makes it crucial to secure arrests before abalone is removed from the sea.
- Govt busts seven poachers, seizes 3.2 tonnes of abalone
By Natalia Real